Sunday, October 31, 2010
Evil Sister. Good Sister. I'm still trying to part with my wedding dress for Rwanda. This was part of my catharsis.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I've worked at Christian companies for the past six years, so maybe these ideas will sound weird to you. But Christian workplaces are often weird. There is a whole spectrum of beliefs on the topic of complimenting.
On one extreme there are the Tight Lips. These are the ones who will treat you courteously, but make it clear that they are concerned that the opposite sex has an infectious disease. They would never be so forward as to make any comment that implied that they approved of you, your being, or anything related to you in any way.
Then there are the Buddies. These are the ones who act like your sibling and compliment you as often as they make fun of you.
Then on the other extreme there are the Skeevs. These are the ones who may say something identical to the Buddies but something in the manner of their look and tone make you feel like worms are crawling up the back of your arms.
Where do you fall in the spectrum? I hope you're not a Skeev. I must admit that I am a complimenter. I think the world would be a better place if we all gave more compliments to one another.
I tend to compliment people's clothing, men included. I appreciate fashion, but most men's fashion is as boring as a box of bran flakes. So if a man is wearing a nice shirt, I will tell him so. I don't believe this makes him suddenly want to run away with me to St. Thomas. (But please let me know if I'm wrong.) I would say to a man, "Hey, that's a great shirt." But I wouldn't say, "That's a right sexy shirt, Mister Thang."
At a church I used to go to, the pastor's wife instructed that no man should compliment a woman ever. I disagree with this. I love dresses. It is one of the great ambitions of my life to collect an entire wardrobe of fabulous dresses. Occasionally a dude will say, "Hey, cool dress." I appreciate this. It affirms my great life ambition. I wouldn't appreciate him saying, "That's a right sexy dress, Miss Thang."
But I don't like personal appearance compliments to stray beyond the objective things, such as that my dress rocks. I don't want to know if you think I'm beautiful or that I have beautiful eyes. (Both of which I've been told by male Christian coworkers.) I can't receive compliments like this about my personal being without either a. having an emotional reaction or b. thinking you're a skeev. I don't want a, and you don't want b.
On the other hand, my husband is someone who compliments women. I like this about him. It wouldn't be odd for him to get within six inches of someone's face and say, "You have really interesting eyes. I like the yellow spots in them; they remind me of creme brulee." But my husband is an odd duck. I don't think most men could pull this off, but my husband is luckily on the Buddy line on the spectrum, not the Skeev.
On the other hand, there are many compliments that could be given, but rarely are, about our unique gifts and skills and character traits. I wouldn't want someone to say to me, "You're the most intelligent woman I've ever met," (though I may secretly wish them to think it), but I would appreciate someone saying, "Hey, I really appreciated your insights on this topic."
We are instructed to "encourage one another and build one another up," in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and I think this includes pointing out areas where you see others striving and shining. Encouragement is a kind of compliment that is a good thing. And a little can go a long way. I used to sing in my college worship band. I loved singing in practice, but I was very self concious of whether or not I sounded like a drowning cat during worship. In all the time that I sang, I got one compliment, and I remember it to this day 13 years later. It was meaningful, as it put my worries at ease. It was Josh, by the way, Krista, so give him a pat on the back. I think he said, "You sang nice," in typical Josh form.
So often the small words of encouragement that we give others are stored up and treasured. Not in a "I'd like to run off to St. Thomas with you in a bikini" way, but in a, "Hey, that really meant a lot to me and built me up," kind of way.
What do you think? Are you tight lipped? Are you a buddy? Where do you think we should land on the spectrum?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
And one of the beautiful plumeria flowers. Here is a view of the beach, where we hung out and drank Coca-Colas.
Here is Rwandan for swing set.
More wandering about taking photos.
I found a little hammock where I wanted to stay forever. That is one of the most genuine smiles you'll ever see on me in a picture.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
We went to the watering hole where the family draws water and washes. I got mobbed.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
And Carol (Uganda), Vera (Ghana), David (Bangladesh), and Silas (Kenya).
I wandered out and did a photo shoot with the cranes. I love how the flowers perfectly matched their red markings.
The cranes kept ruffling their feathers and poofing up their wings to tell me to back on up. The various Rwandans standing around looked at me funny. I guess I'd feel the same way if I saw them cooing at pigeons.
Here are two more that Kristin bought. I love the middle's colors. These smaller ones are about $8, and my bigger one was $13. I see that Macy's sells handmade Rwandan baskets for much higher prices. Their smaller ones go for $46, and the bigger ones are $60. I love a bargain. Let me know if you want one for Christmas. :)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
At afternoon tea, the rain whished as we drank African tea: black tea with milk - a lot of milk - and ginger. A delicious new gelato flavor in the making.
Kigali is a beautiful city to drive through. It's amazingly clean. (Plastic bags are illegal and will be confiscated at the airport.) It was as clean, if not cleaner, than cities in the US, which is impressive if you've seen pictures of Nairobi or Kampala. The streets are also very well maintained and there is little traffic. Although there are still many poor, they have been relocated to the outskirts of the city, so you wouldn't know from driving through Kigali that it has a large population of poor people.
At dinner, I argued with the Bengalis which sport is more boring: football (soccer), or American football. Now I shall read through my notes to prepare to teach tomorrow!
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
One thing I'm considering for our room is a headboard. We've never had one, but we do read in bed every night, so it could add some inviting coziness to our ritual. I'm El Cheapo, so I would DIY-it, of course. Here are some ideas. What do you think?
A screen (I love screens, but this would depend on finding a cheap screen):
A DIY bamboo screen (made from placemats!). I like the look of this one a lot, but it doesn't look as cozy to lean on.
A simple DIY upholstered headboard. I'm a big fan of this, as it's not too imposing, but adds a nice cozy touch. I'll just need to buy some poofy pillows!
A mantel. Nevermind. Let's not kid ourselves. I'm too lazy for Martha.
OK, what do you think? Which is your favorite? Or, do you say, "Amber, headboards are so 2003. Go with the minimalist wall"?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
The first night (Saturday), I'll stay here in Kigali, the capital. Then once everyone has arrived, we'll drive an hour north to a hotel in Musanze. We'll be right next to Volcanoes Nat'l Park, where the gorillas are! Sadly, I won't be seeing the gorillas. But I'm excited to relax in the beautiful mountains.
See you later!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I love me a controversy. Especially when it involves women. I have friends on both extremes. Those who are totally fine eating lunch alone with a man friend. Those who aren't friends with men on Facebook. I don't think either are inherently right or wrong.
Jon concludes, "Of the two camps, 'Jeez, you're such a Puritan, loosen up,' and 'Better safe than sorry, can a dude drive me to the airport,' I know which one I want to fall into."
I would argue that a better option to the two Jon presents would be to try not to lean into extremes. Though extremes are easier, they're not more spiritual and they avoid the larger problem.
On a trip to a conference, Jon asked that a male pick him up from the airport, as he and his wife thought that was the wiser choice. That's cool. In the life of Christian ministry, perhaps this approach is the most practical and advisable.
But in the working world, life doesn't work that way and I would argue shouldn't work that way. (Now, if you believe that women should not be in the work world in the first place, then my arguments will have no weight with you.) But if you are one of us that has rent to pay, then you probably know that avoidance of the opposite sex is simply not practical. Men supervise women. Women supervise men. They have meetings together. Sometimes they discuss sensitive issues and the doors must be closed. That is the working world.
But that makes it sound like interaction between male and female is just an inevitable evil that we must put up with. When truly the thing is:
Women are human. We are human before we are women.
Men, as it turns out, are also human. They are human before they are men. (I'm borrowing from one of my favorite thinkers, Dorothy L. Sayers.)
This may seem simplisitic, but when we say that we cannot have interaction with the other sex, we are viewing their being as primarily a gender, an "other," not a human. The end result of this is an Esmeralda and Minister Frollo mentality. Men's view on women becomes myopic. They are the forbidden fruit to be avoided and shunned. Women's attitude towards themselves becomes shriveled: They are shameful and dangerous creatures of lesser value.
Let me tell you a secret, men: Women don't like the feeling that all we are is a temptation. That we aren't people, we are something to avoid. It hurts our feelings. We don't like being equated with our sex. We don't like it when we're not first considered as people with something to contribute. We don't want to play the Esmeralda to your Frollo.
Avoidance does not build character or spiritual maturity. Our insularity instead lets our issues fester, like Frollo.
If I am jealous of a girl because of her shiny, blonde locks and seemingly infinite circle of friends, I shouldn't avoid the glossy-haired girl in order to avoid sinful, jealous thoughts. I should deal with the root issues that are causing the sin, such as low self-esteem and competitiveness.
If I struggle with anger and occasionally want to scratch my husband when I talk to him (which I don't, by the way), I don't avoid the problem by never talking to my husband. I deal with the root issues causing my anger, such as a sense of entitlement.
If I struggle with flirting with men, the solution is not to never speak to a man again. That doesn't mature my character. It allows it to fester. I need to face the root issues, such as conceit and a desire for attention.
I don't think we should all go throw ourselves in situations that will cause us to struggle so that we can deal with our issues. Certainly not. But I don't think we should retreat from normal, everyday activities that are a part of any human being's life.
My husband (gosh, I love him) happens to be one of those guys who always was friends with girls. (And I gotta say, that is a wonderful kind of guy to marry.) He is still good friends with girls he was close to growing up and I love how he respects and finds great value in them as people.
That doesn't mean we don't practice discernment. By all means, we do. But as humans, we don't just need negative restrictions, we need positive practices. Jesus is a great example of this. He didn't avoid women. He knew how to treat them as people. The radical practice of Christ and Christianity is that men and women are both people, on equal footing.
What men and women really need isn't more time away from each other, what they really need is more practice seeing each other as people, as brothers and sisters in Christ, learning to appreciate the unique and valuable aspects of each individual. If we hide ourselves away from the opposite sex, all they will ever be is an object of desire, not what they are: A human.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I tend to look half asleep or drunk in many of my photos, as you can see in this post from a friend of mine. I think the washed out no-nose look is a good one for me.
But another friend recently pointed out another embarassing photo habit of mine. I pose. Like this.
I'm a hip popper. I don't know why I do it. I don't even know that I'm doing it until I get home and see the photos on the computer and me looking like I'm getting ready for my 8th grade Paula Abdul dance recital picture. Those lessons really paid off, apparently.
I might as well go all the way and do this. At least I'm not as weird looking as thoses guys in the middle.
So what's your weird photo habit? Do you pop it? Do you stick your chin way out to avoid double chin-age? (I do.) Do you keep your mouth shut to hide your teeth? (I do.) Come on. Spill it.
Just outside the gates, there were tons of people offering their services as guides. When we turned down one man he said, "Ahh, I see you do not care about history. You make a big mistake." That might not sound very funny until you go back and read it in your best Chinese accent. I bought an audio guide to prove that I do care about history.
On the flight home from Beijing, I watched the new Karate Kid, which takes place in Beijing and presents a highly idealized version of the place. In the scene when his school visits the Forbidden City, they run through the huge red doors into a beautiful and empty palace. There was nothing empty about the Forbidden City. It was crammed to the gills. Here are the entry doors. You rub the golden spheres for good luck.As always, there were many lions festooning the place.
The buildings all had animal sculptures lining the roofs. The more monkeys, the more prestigious the building. This is the most important building.
After a rest at the hotel, we went out shopping for the afternoon. My sister, Tara, had asked me to buy her a statue in China, but all I had found up until that time was gaudy dragons, fat Buddhas, and huge cabbages. So I finally found a beautiful statue that, in my stupor after all the harmony, I paid a ridiculous amount for. I am officially not allowed to ever shop when traveling again. I make questionable choices. We also had this man write our names in Chinese. Or maybe he wrote "stupid white prostitute." I don't know, but I'm going to hang it on my wall.
I had scrambled egg won tons which were delicious, if greasy. The majority of my food in China seemed very greasy, so I came home feeling myself like a greased pig. I also got a little pot of jasmine tea, which was divine on my throat, as by this time I had contracted the Asian Flu of Supreme Elegance.
I flew home the next day in a fog of Supreme Disharmony and collapsed at home in bed for four days straight.